Directed by Takashi Shimizu
Produced by Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert & Taka Ichise
Written by Stephen Susco
Director of Photograpy Hideo Yamamoto
Music by Christopher Young
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Bill Pullman, Ted Raimi & Ryo Ishibashi
2004/91 mins/Color/5.1 Dolby Digital
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD
If you read my review for JU-ON, then you know that I'm a great admirer of that film. With that in mind, it was with mixed feelings that I greeted the announcement of a remake of that film. I liked the idea that Takashi Shimizu would once again be directing and the fact that the great Sam Raimi was involved was nothing but a blessing. However, I couldn't help but think of all of the bad remakes that we've seen recently and the odd fact that Shimizu had in fact already remade JU-ON. Well, now that I've seen THE GRUDGE, I'm glad to say that I didn't hate it and that it works well as a companion piece to the original.
As with the other films in the JU-ON series, THE GRUDGE focuses on a certain house in Tokyo. As the film opens, a social worker, Yoko (Yoko Maki) goes to the house and finds only an older women (Grace Zabriskie) home by herself. While cleaning the house, which is a mess, something bad happens to Yoko. We then meet Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), an exchange student living in Tokyo with her boyfriend, Doug (Jason Behr). Karen volunteers at the Community Care Center, where Yoko had worked. Her supervisor, Alex (Ted Raimi), sends her to the house, as Yoko hasn't been heard from. When Karen reaches the house, she not only finds the old woman, but a strange young boy named Toshio (Yuya Ozeki). The worst comes when Karen sees a ghostly image. From this point, THE GRUDGE begins to tell the story of the horrible events which occurred in the house, the family who most recently inhabited the home, and the way that the house's curse effects everyone who enters it.
From here, the review for THE GRUDGE must go in two directions; for those who have seen the original(s) and for those who have not. Those of you who have not seen JU-ON (in any of its incarnations) are in for a real treat with THE GRUDGE. The film takes our idea of a haunted house story and turns it on its ear, as the power of the house and the ghosts which dwell within, can reach outside of the structure and effect people's lives. Series creator Takashi Shimizu fills the movie with very creepy images which tap into the subconscious of the viewer. The film also has some nice "jump" scares, but it's the morbid images which stick with you. Also, Shimizu isn't afraid to tinker with chronology, ala PULP FICTION, and the way that the film leaps around may be confusing to some viewers, but will pay off for astute audience members.
Now, for those of you who have seen the original films. THE GRUDGE overall isn't as good as its JU-ON predecessors, but it's still worth seeing. Shimizu and screenwriter Stephen Susco have tweeked the original story and added just enough new material to offers some surprises for the initiated. The first hour of the movie is very similar to JU-ON with only a few minor changes. Most of these center around Sarah Michelle Gellar's character, with her indoctrination into Japanese culture and the way that she is placed into the story. However, the third act is quite different. To be honest, I've never enjoyed the huge time-jump which occurs in the latter-half of JU-ON, and I prefer the more streamlined approach in THE GRUDGE. Shimizu also seems to be bringing us a "greatest hits" package with THE GRUDGE, as much of the film follows JU-ON, but there is at least one moment, featuring a violent injury, which is taken from the first shot-on-video JU-ON.
While THE GRUDGE is certainly watchable, it isn't perfect. The movie has the requisite characters and creepy images from the JU-ON films, but for some reason, it simply isn't as disturbing as those earlier films. I don't know if it has to do with the Hollywood polish the film carries or the fact that the PG-13 rating dampened the tone of the film, but it simply isn't as scary. No, THE GRUDGE isn't perfect, but as far as needless remakes go, it isn't bad. It's certainly much, much better than THE RING, which took a great Japanese film and turned it into a horse-laden mess. As you probably know, a sequel to THE GRUDGE has been given the green light. I can only hope that they adapt Shimizu's JU-ON 2 for this sequel, as that is one of the scariest films that I've ever seen.
THE GRUDGE comes to DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks pretty good, as the picture is sharp, but there is a notable amount of grain on the image. But, the image shows little artifacting and no major problems from edge-enhancement. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track delivers clear and audible dialogue with no hissing or distortion. The sound brings us a nice use of the rear channels and subwoofer. However, the audio was nowhere near as effective as the DTS tracks which are found on the imports DVDs of the original JU-ON and JU-ON 2 (which totally rocks).
Given the fact that THE GRUDGE was a huge hit, the DVD contains a surprisingly small number of extras. We start with an audio commentary with features actor Ted Raimi, producer Robert Tapert, actor Sarah Michelle Gellar, actor Clea Duvall, producer Sam Raimi, actor KaDee Strickland, actor Jason Behr, and screenwriter Stephen Susco. This is a fun chat, as the group constantly cracks jokes, but it may be disappointing for those who want in-depth info about the film. The actors spend most of the commentary talking about their experiences living and working in Japan, peppering this topic with comments about the production of the film. Also, Ted and Sam sound very much alike, so it's hard to tell which one of them is speaking. "A Powerful Rage: Behind THE GRUDGE" is a 48-minute featurette which has been divided into 5 sub-sections. (There is a PLAY ALL feature.) "The Birth of THE GRUDGE" focuses on the original film (but shows clips from only THE GRUDGE) and looks at how the remake came about. "Myth of the Ju-On" examines ghost stories in Japan and the elements of the haunting in THE GRUDGE. "Culture Shock: The American Cast in Japan" features the actors talking about their on-set experiences working through a translator and what it was like to explore Tokyo. "Designing THE GRUDGE House" gives us an in-depth look at the set. And finally, the actors discuss the director in "A New Direction: Understanding Takashi Shimizu". "Under the Skin" (12 minutes) is an odd featurette in which Joseph Le Doux, PhD discusses the effects of fear and horror films. The extras are rounded out by the trailer for THE GRUDGE.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©